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PROCEEDINGS FOR 1892. XXxix
Professor A. Marshall Elliott :
I cannot tell you how I am touched by the remarks that
have been made and by the action just taken. My with-
drawal from the office of Secretary is attended with sore
regret, but it has become imperative with me. This Associa-
tion came into existence through difficulties, but its success is,
I hope, now assured. All that I have done would have been
impossible without the strong support, the hopeful sentiment
and the good will of the members of this Association. For
all this I owe the warmest thanks.
The reading of papers was then resumed.
12. The Tales of Uncle Remus traced to the Old World.
By Professor A. Gerber, of Earlham College, Indiana.
Professor F. M. Warren :
The question as to the foreign sources of Uncle Remus came incidentally
to my attention some years ago after reading the Soman de Renard and
comparing it with the present tales of Uncle Remus. The similarity between
Uncle Remus and the Roman de Renard seemed to me to be such as would
indicate a very close connection — almost indicating a translation, the
Roman de Renard being written 700 years ago and Uncle Remus some fifteen
years ago. Of course, in the process of time, these stories must have been
altered before reaching this country. Those that came from Prance were
altered at a very recent date, and were translated from the French. At
the end of my article on " Uncle Remus and the Roman de Renard " I
made' an appendix which seemed to throw light on the way those stories
got into this country.
I found in a book published by Colonel Jones of Georgia, which many of
you probably have read, given among the stories told by the Coast negroes,
the story of the pail of butter which Dr. Gerber has referred to. The
version in the story published by Colonel Jones differed somewhat from
that in Uncle Remus, but it was an exact translation — I will not say word
for word, but very often the sentences were an exact translation of the
French story published by Cosquin in the Conies populaires de Lorraine.
The negro story is in the dialect of the Coast negro, and my unfamiliarity
with the negro dialect made it hard for me to read it, but I got the gist of it.
In Uncle Remus the story simply refers to the rabbit and the fox being at
work, and the rabbit stealing off to eat up the butter in the well. In Cos-
quin's collection the story begins in this way : They are at work and the
xl MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION.
fox hears the Angelus (it is the fox here instead of the rabbit) and pre-
tends he is called away to be a God-father. He goes away and comes back
in a little while, and the wolf asks him the name of the child. The fox
replies, Commencement. Then in a little while after, he hears another
stroke, and he says he is called again to be a God-father. He goes off and
returns, and the wolf asks him the name of the child and he replies, Mid-
way. He goes away a third time at the ringing of the bell and comes back
again and the wolf asks him the name of the child and he says, Ending.
This is rendered in the negro dialect of Georgia, and it struck me as so
singular that they should retain almost the very stage setting — not only the
plot, but absolutely the surroundings. Of course, there being no Angelus
rung in Georgia, it was necessary to invent another means for calling him
away. The rabbit is a preacher, he heard a sound and had to go away to
baptise a child. When the rabbit comes back and the wolf asks him where
he has been, he says he has been to the baptism of a child ; and when the
wolf asks him its name, he says it is, First Beginning. When he goes
away again and returns and the wolf asks him the name of the child, he
says, Half-way ; when he goes a third time and returns and the wolf asks
him the same question, the rabbit says the name of the child is, Scraping-
There is almost the identical setting in the two stories. Of course, in the
Roman Catholic country the fox hears the Angelus and that is changed in
Georgia where the rabbit pretends to hear a sound and has to go to a
baptism. That struck me as being singular. It would seem as if some
one had taken a French story and had translated it and that it had come
into Colonel Jones' book through only one handling — and that the trans-
lator's. I do not see how the story could have gone through a man who
had any faculty for adaptation and not have been altered more than it is.
The two stories almost exactly correspond, except in the matter of the
Angelus. It strikes me that this similarity might throw a great deal of
light on the subject of the immediate derivation of a great many of Uncle
Remus tales from the French.
The theory I would form would be this : Those stories came from Hayti
or Louisiana ; in Hayti and Louisiana they came from the French. They
had been preserved in Hayti and Louisiana until it was necessary to trans-
late into the English, and they had been translated there by one person
and kept there practically intact. That will show a very recent translation,
if that is a fact. This translation does not go back over two generations ;
otherwise the story would be much more altered.
Professor S. Garner :
I think it would have been well if Professor Gerber, while engaged in
getting his material together, had written to Mr. Harris and asked him
how many of the stories he did collect from Uncle Kemus, what he got
from his imagination, how many he got from his mother, and how many
PROCEEDINGS FOR 1892. xli
he got possession of in other ways. If Professor Gerber will remember, in
the preface to the first edition of Uncle Remus, Mr. Harris refers, in a slight
way without going into the discussion of the question, to a similarity exist-
ing between some of his stories and those of Europe. It may be possible,
since he found the success of his first volume so great, that in order to make
Up other volumes, he studied up this subject somewhat and put into the
mouth of the old man stories which he did not collect from Uncle Remus.
I think it is more than probable that a good many of these stories have
come to the southern negro from his master and mistress. Those of us who
live in the South, and know the extreme familiarity which existed between
the old domestic house-servant and the children — in fact all members of
the household — Will know, of course, that there was hardly any thing in the
family kept back from them — the old mammy, especially, as she was called.
Of course, being in the nursery, while not reading herself, she became
acquainted with a great many of the stories read by the children, and then
might take these stories out to the field negroes, or to the quarters. They
would take hold of them and work them over in their own way.
I wish to call attention to the version of this butter story, as I remember
it from my childhood. I think I learned the story from my mother. It was
told in this way : The rabbit and the fox had been on a foraging expedition
and stole a pot of butter. Brer Fox and Brer Babbit had agreed to make a
tobacco bed in common, and this pot of butter was to be their dinner. In
order to keep it from spoiling, they put it into the spring. Brer Babbit,
after he had been working a little while, got tired and said he wanted to go
to get a drink of water. He told the fox to work on and ran down to the
branch to get a drink of water. He went down and came back. I have
forgotten now how he brought in the replies to the fox, but the first time
it was, just begun ; the second time his reply was, midway ; and the third
time, scraping the bottom.
Now this is a feature of the story that Professor Gerber seems not to have
taken hold of. When they came to dinner, the butter was all gone and the
fox accused the rabbit of eating it and the rabbit accused the fox. To find
out who had eaten it, they agreed to get two boards and lie down on them
in the sun and sleep, and then the one who had eaten the butter would
show the evidence of it by its coming out of his body or out of his mouth.
They get two boards and lie down. The rabbit does not fall asleep but
after lying there a while and the board becoming greasy, he gets up off his
board and rolls brother fox, who is asleep, over on his board, and in this
way convicts him of having eaten the butter.
Professor O. B. Super :
I do not wish to take up time, but I wish to ask one or two questions for
my own enlightenment. Does not the fact that the wolf is so prominent
in Uncle Bemus' stories show importation ? I suppose we cannot assume
that the negroes of the Georgia coast, or of Louisiana, knew anything about
llii MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION.
wolves by actual experience. That the wolf should be prominent in the
European tales is quite easily understood ; but why is it that he is so
prominent in the stories of Uncle Remus? For the same reason, why is
the lion so prominent in European stories, when we are doubtless obliged
to assume that those people, as we know them at present, knew nothing
about lions, except what was heard from some other source ?
Professor J. B. Henneman :
I was interested in hearing that this butter story is in Maryland, as well
as in southern Georgia. I think that will conflict with Professor Warren's
theory, however ingenious. I remember distinctly hearing-it in upper South
Carolina, where there is an entirely different set of negroes from those on
the coast of Georgia. Some other theory will have to be formed to convince
one of southern education, who has heard these stories from the darkies, as
to exactly how they have been imported. It has been suggested that they
came from the whites. It is a little singular that we who were brought up
in the South never heard them from white persons — at least I never did.
It was only from our colored nurses — our old mammies — that we ever heard
them. As to Mr. Harris inventing anything in his first stories, I can testify
to hearing from the colored people in upper South Carolina every story he
told there. What he drew from his imagination, was practically nil. I can
testify only as to that particular part of the country, but I am perfectly
sure that they are not limited to any one section. Importation from Hayti
and Louisiana would, I think, be impossible to prove.
We can notice coincidences; but that is about all we can do. How these
stories ever reached these various sections of the country from Maryland to
Texas, we cannot tell. Any one acquainted with the southern negro, knows
the differences between them. There is a difference between the negroes
of upper South Carolina and those of the Charleston district; between those
of the middle section of Georgia — from which Mr. Harris comes — and the
negro of the southern coast, about Savannah. Yet these stories are among
them all. They were told us by our negro nurses. We never received an
intimation of them (I speak again simply from my own experience) from
a white person ; and when Mr. Harris brought them out, every one of us
was delighted — for we had forgotten these stories in the meanwhile — at
hearing them once more and at actually seeing them reduced to print before
I do not wish to oppose these theories as to emigration. I believe, in
some instances at least, that must necessarily have been the case ; but
exactly how — through what media — is the difficult matter to prove. So
far as I can see, no theory that has been suggested is at all adequate. Of
course, I have not seen all the data of Professor Gerber's article, and I
wish to thank him for his investigation of the matter and to assure him of
the interest with which we in the South will peruse it.
proceedings foe 1892. xliii
Professor S. Garner :
I would like to say just another word. I had no idea of accusing Mr.
Harris of drawing on his imagination, or of dishonesty. We, in the South,
are not in the habit of accusing gentlemen of being dishonest. Gentlemen
in the South are not dishonest. When this volume of Mr. Harris' came
out, we all hailed it with delight ; we had heard many of these stories ; I
had heard a great many from my mother ; I suppose she heard them from
her servants ; I don't remember hearing many from the negroes. Books
were not so plentiful then as they are now. These stories had to. serve
their purpose in entertaining the children.
What I meant to say was, that after Mr. Harris had published his first
book, which contained the most prominent of these stories, which every one
recognized as having heard, he kept continually working the mine ; and
the question that occurred to me was, whether he had not, in order to get
enough material to make up his books, put into the mouth of the old man
stories which he had not heard — stories which, no doubt, did exist in other
parts of the South ? He would not have had time to investigate personally
for himself all these stories by going through the South, and, having found
many stories in the story books, did he not perhaps take them and work
them over into the negro dialect, as he could have done without laying
himself open to the charge of dishonesty ?
I wrote to Mr. Harris for information, but received no reply. I have
been informed that there are wolves in Georgia even at the present time.
Of course, the lion points to Africa. I could only give a small part of the
evidence I have collected.
So far as Professor Warren's remarks are concerned, I should like to say
that it is not quite true that these stories came necessarily from the French.
The butter story is told exactly in the same way in Eussia, showing a
tendency of people to cling to a story even when it comes from another
country and from one language into another.
13. Two Pioneers in the Historical Study of English, —
Thomas Jefferson and Louis F. Klipstein : A Contribution
to the History of the Study of English in America. By
Professor J. B. Henneman, of Hampden-Sidney College,
The historical study of English — as nearly every point in the educa-
tional history of Virginia — is closely associated with the name of Thomas